How Do Fats Get Digested After Your Gallbladder Is Removed?

Gallbladder removal affects fat-soluble vitamin absorption.
i Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

It is estimated that 20 million Americans suffer from gallstones -- calcified cholesterol pebbles that form in the gallbladder -- but up to 80 percent will not experience any symptoms, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Physicians commonly recommend gallbladder removal if you experience severe pain and inflammation related to gallbladder disease. Once your gallbladder is removed, your body can still digest fats from your diet, just not as efficiently.

Gallbladder Function

The gallbladder is a small sac located on the right side of your body below your liver. It holds bile, a substance that helps your body digest fat from the foods you eat. When you consume foods that contain fat, your gallbladder contracts, releasing the bile into your intestines. If you have gallbladder issues, you can experience sharp pains in your side as a result of eating fatty foods.

Gallbladder Removal

Your liver actually produces the bile, but when your gallbladder is removed there is no place to store the bile. Your liver continues producing bile in the absence of a gallbladder, but instead of being stored in a concentrated form, it drips slowly from your liver into your small intestine. When you eat a fatty meal, the bile that is already in your intestines helps break down the fat.

Fat Digestion After Surgery

When the gallbladder is present and functioning, it releases bile in one big gush in response to a meal that contains fat. Without your gallbladder, there is a smaller amount of bile in the intestines. This means that while you can still consume fat, you may not be able to consume large fatty meals because there is only a small amount of bile in your intestines at a given time.

Gallbladder Removal Diet

While there isn't a specific diet to follow after gallbladder removal, physicians and dietitians typically make general recommendations to avoid problems after someone has undergone a gallbladder removal. Because your body can only break down small amounts of fat at a time, avoid high-fat, fried and greasy foods. recommends eating smaller, more frequent meals. Consuming smaller meals helps assure a better mix of available bile. In addition, you should also gradually increase your fiber intake to help reduce constipation.

the nest